McKeldin nominated Ike

Remember When

August 04, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

"With Gov. McKeldin at the throttle of the locomotive, Maryland's delegation to the Republican National Convention left here yesterday afternoon in an eight-car special train for Chicago," reported The Sun in July of 1952.

Theodore R. McKeldin, Maryland's favorite son, who had risen from humble circumstances as one of 11 children of a South Baltimore stonecutter-turned-policeman, went right from grammar school to a $20-a month job as an office boy and a part-time job digging graves.

He attended Baltimore City College at night and graduated in 1925 from the University of Maryland Law School.

Blessed with a gift for oratory, McKeldin broke into politics in 1927 when he volunteered his speaking services to William F. Broening, who, after being elected mayor, appointed him as an aide.

Now, as the Baltimore and Ohio train raced toward Chicago and the convention, rumors and news stories began to surface about a major role for the governor at the convention -- possibly a Cabinet position or the vice presidency.

"McKeldin, resplendent in a blue tie with a map of the Chesapeake Bay on it and the inevitable plastic black-eyed susan in the lapel, stepped from the train into a crowd of 80 young 'We-Like-Ike 'ers,' who stumbled through the words of 'Maryland, My Maryland,' " reported The Sun of his arrival in Chicago.

"Theodore R. McKeldin, who parlayed his powers of oratory into a governorship, will make the most important speech of his career this week. He will nominate Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Republican National convention," said The Sun.

Hopes were raised in the hearts of Marylanders that this was a curtain raiser to McKeldin's nomination for the vice-presidential spot.

Reporters observed an overjoyed McKeldin doing a jig in his hotel and repeating over and over, "I'm going to nominate Ike. I'm going to nominate Ike."

On July 11 at 12: 15 a.m., McKeldin, who was dressed in a blue suit and sporting a blue tie embossed with "Republican elephants rampant," mounted the platform and addressed the convention. He told the wildly cheering delegates that Eisenhower could win "a glorious victory in November by appealing to all segments of the voters."

Pulling out all the stops, McKeldin hit his stride when he said Eisenhower would sweep the "stench and stigma from the Augean stables of the Washing- ton administration."

Eisenhower was nominated on the first ballot with McKeldin bellowing to reporters from his perch on a chair in the convention hall, "This is sure the day of jubilo."

While the vice-presidential nomination passed to Richard M. Nixon and national office eluded him, McKeldin went on to become the only Republican in state history to serve two terms as governor and two terms as Baltimore's mayor.

Hundreds carrying signs reading "Our Boy Teddy" and "The Tops" gathered to meet McKeldin's train at Mount Royal Station on a Sunday morning. In their eyes he was returning home a conquering hero, and they were anxious to shake his hand as he made his way toward his waiting automobile.

bTC "He left an indelible imprint on his native state," said The Sun after his death in 1974.

"More important than structures of stone and steel were Mr. McKeldin's championing of unpopular causes that he knew were right, although there were no votes in them. One of these was social justice and the toppling of racial barriers to provide first-class citizenship for all."

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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